Are Boys in Crisis?
Q. It seems
like everywhere you turn around, you hear that boys are having more problems
with learning, and that we have to redesign our schools so that we don't lose
so many of them to checking out, or dropping out, of school. Is this correct?
It may come
as quite a surprise to feminists, but boys have trailed girls in most measurements
of academic performance for at least two decades. Here are some
statistics about boys and educational and health issues to underscore the
Why has this happened? It is thought
that, since most teachers are women, and women tend to be concrete thinkers,
that's a clash since most boys tend to be abstract thinkers. Most women teachers
tend to like classrooms that are quiet and orderly, a classroom management
style that favors more compliant, obedient girls over boys. These teachers
prefer neat handwriting over interesting written expression, which again may
favor the fine-motor skills that girls tend to be better at, rather than the
intellectual content, which boys might actually be better at expressing except
for those pesky strike-throughs and erasures because of their less-developed
These same sorts of teachers tend to
frown on boyish good fun and smile on girlish docility and quietness, which
discourages boys from classroom participation and feeling as though the teacher
doesn't like them. These teachers tend to dole out worksheets that require
concentration and sitting still, while most boys (and most girls, for that
matter, but they seem to have better self-control in the early grades) like
hands-on learning, the ability move around the classroom, "permission" to be a
little messy and investigate and try things out, and the freedom to be
creatively and productively distracted from time to time.
When you add the "test pressure" in
recent years from new accountability requirements, which further reduces the
time teachers have to be patient with boy-type behaviors, there is even less
leeway in many classrooms to let "boys be boys."
Finally, this is coming out in the
That's the good news. The BAD news
is, some feminists are consternated, worried that girl issues are going to get
short shrift in funding and so forth as the attention shifts to boys. Others
believe the statistics are being manipulated to create a false crisis.
For more on the point of view that
there's no "boy crisis," see the report by the left-wing American Association
of University Women, "Where
the Girls Are: The Facts About Gender Equity in Education." Also see this report
from the think tank Education Sector debunking some of the statistics in major
media reports on schools shortchanging boys.
Note that both of those groups are
considered left-wing, and judge their conclusions accordingly.
The AAUW says its report
"debunks the myth of a 'boys crisis' in education," but the study ironically
fails to support that claim. It's clearly shown within the report that girls
get much better grades than boys, are far more likely to graduate from college,
and have better reading skills, which translates into stronger learning skills.
Put those factors together with
statistics that girls are more likely to graduate than boys, with a truly
enormous disparity in the genders of minority dropouts . . . and boys are far
more likely than girls to be disciplined, suspended, held back, or expelled . .
. and that the vast majority of learning-disabled (such as autism and dyslexia)
students are boys . . . and boys are much more likely than girls to be
retarded, emotionally disturbed or schizophrenic . . . and that boys are four
times more likely to attempt and commit suicide . . . and that far more boys
than girls abuse drugs and alcohol and fall into gangs and criminality . . . and
that boys are far more likely than girls to receive a diagnosis of
attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and be put on powerful
medications which can permanently alter the way the brain works.
Although more girls than boys enroll
in high level math and science classes, boys do score a little better in math.
However, girls' advantage in reading and writing is several times as large as
that math edge.
schools have long since taken note of these trends, and wherever possible have
tried to make boy-friendly
classrooms, as described in the excellent website, www.boysproject.net
What should parents do? Read up on
this situation, and do what you can to encourage your sons to be who they are,
within boundaries, while you encourage your schools and your teachers to put
the best interests of boys on the front burner alongside the best interests of
more on helping boys succeed in school, get one of these two excellent books: The War Against Boys by Christina Hoff
Sommers, or Bringing Up Boys by Dr.